There's a band called Morphine?
When I heard that there was a band called Morphine, I automatically assumed they were a punk band. I placed them in my head categorically with other bands like Rancid, the Descendants -- Morphine . . . I was at my friend and bassist Dustin Krupa's house in the mountains, and we were scrolling through his vast library of music on his computer. I was twenty. The band Morphine came up on the list as he continued down.
"Morphine's a punk band, right?" I asked casually. In my head, I already knew what they sounded like: fast fast, loud, aggressive, punk.
"Nooo," D told me, shaking his head, his eyebrows furrowed. "Morphine is like bluesy jazz." And then he played me their song "Super Sex", off of their album Yes, and all my assumptions and presumptions melted away into the hot and dark rainy city streets deep jazz and poetic bluesy rock that was Morphine. Hearing Mark Sandman's deep baritone voice: "I got the whiskey baby, I got the whiskey. I got the cigarette." Morphine was nothing like I'd expected. It would be later on in the year that I really got into them, with their album Cure For Pain.
Cure For Pain, by Morphine. The album, with it's darkly haunting deep droning overdriven bass and sexy curvy baritone sax, it's tasteful and tight jazz drums; the powerful roar of Mark Sandman's two string slide electric bass, such an innovative instrument; the flow of the album from start to finish: it has dynamics, it tells a story, it takes me to another place.
The album conjures up my time spent at the apartment in the Mountain Sun apartment (Mountain Slums, as we jokingly called it) in Durango, Colorado. I was living with my best friend Doc (Dustin Stoneburner). On the top story, the third level, all put together nicely in a two bedroom pad, everything was Doc's except for whatever was in my room. And it snowed that winter -- goddamn, how it snowed. Three feet high, we were snowed in, and I became deathly ill; hallucinatory and deliriously sick; the sickest I'd ever been in my whole life. This was in the apartment where I wrote many songs to my album Dig This: I wrote For "Fuck's Sake", "Pitch Black Blues in E", "King's Canyon", "Near Death" . . . it was the apartment where I started accumulating effects pedals for my newly acquired tube amp, where I began to tinker with my sound, with feedback, experimentation. In the apartment there was always music going. There was the Flaming Lips, the album Water by the Beautiful Girls, and for me, there was Morphine's Cure For Pain.
Mark Sandman's low and deep voice, sophisticated, like beat poetry, snap your fingers in the dark jazz club. It changed me: the darkness of the songs, the overall arrangement, the beauty of it all. And many songs sounded alike, sure, but each song had the unmistakable unique style of Morphine; there's nothing like it.
Songs like "Buena", "Thursday", and the title track "Cure For Pain", were all dark and unique. There's not a bad song on the album. There are few albums that hold up in their entirety; most albums have at least one or two not-so-great songs on them; songs that don't seem to fit, songs that you intentionally skip over while listening in the car. Cure For Pain is not like that. I put it in, and it stays in; I don't need to touch the dial.
I listened to the album regularly, continuously, every time I was in my deathtrap breakdown car, as the snow dumped mercilessly on Durango, and the bourbon whisky poisoned my soul. Coming come at night, driving home completely shitfaced after a shift cooking at the fine dining restaurant north of town -- how did I make it home night after night? Drinking Maker's on an empty stomach, spilling the stolen food from the restaurant all over the walkway and the stairs, finally getting into the right apartment, cataclysmically wasted beyond repair. I lay on the futon and let the ceiling spin into oblivion, utterly lost, the kaleidoscope of burning fire rubbing alcohol fusing into my dying brain. Twenty years old.
I drank too much in the apartment, sure. Twenty years old, I got away with a lot. While I was living with Doc at the Mountain Sun, I'd come home with prime rib and Alaskan King crab legs and New York strips from the restaurant, we ate like kings. We constantly had two thirty racks of Pabst Blue Ribbon taking up all the room in our fridge. We had a bong that fucked your brain sky high; we were always getting stoned. Music constantly playing, guitars all over the apartment, cartoons (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, how I love that show even now), it was our own place. It was an amazing, creative time, short lived but impactful. And Cure For Pain was the soundtrack to this time period in my life.
Before I ever played lap slide, I listened to Cure For Pain; the open two note drone, the heavy rock two string slide bass was overwhelmingly powerful for me. Morphine was (is) a huge influence on my slide work. My main influences for lap slide guitar are Ben Harper, Xavier Rudd, Jack White, and Morphine; they have sculpted my style with lap slide.
Listen to it. You might feel what I felt, to a certain extent.
(Do you like my writing? You do? Thanks! Subscribe here and get free music, blog notices, early video releases, and more.)